Barcelona, Fun Facts, and a 10k

The final stage of Volta Catalunya was in Barcelona, so I decided to head down and try to watch it. I was a little nervous to try out the train and subway systems for the first time, but it turns out it’s pretty simple and a friend helped me figure out directions beforehand. I came out of the subway near the coast, and headed toward the course. Barcelona is beautiful! I can’t wait to go back to do some real sightseeing. But today bike racing was the goal! I stopped at a cafe to get a bite to eat, thinking I was somewhere near the loop the racers would take and I wouldn’t accidentally miss the race. (Very precise thinking I know, but I haven’t yet mastered the art of finding the perfect location for race viewing.) Somehow, I accidentally placed myself in the middle of the circuit route (which was like a figure eight) and instead of seeing Caleb and the peloton go by a measly four times, I saw them twice each lap! Pretty awesome. I met up with Caleb after the race, and found out he had crashed early on. He was ok, thank goodness. Just a couple spots of road rash and some good bruising. I’m relieved I didn’t see the actual crash, but am bracing myself for the fact that eventually, I probably will. Aside from the crashing, it was a really fun day in Barcelona.

This week has been wonderful having Caleb home and in recovery mode. We got to spend a lot of time together. It was great because aside from a quick trip home next Sunday, he’ll be gone for almost three weeks. Saturday he left for Pais Vasco so everyone tune in and cheer him on! You can watch it live and check updates and results here: http://www.steephill.tv/vuelta-al-pais-vasco/

I’ve compiled a few more random facts about living in Spain. 1) Going out to lunch is a big deal, and it is very long. It generally involves three courses, wine, cafe con leche, and lasts for hours. Some friends and I spent 3 hours at a cafe the other day, and when we asked for the check our waiter teased for being in a rush! 2) People are aggressive and 3) have a different sense of personal boundaries. When you’re walking down the street, you have to sort of plow into crowds or you’ll never make it anywhere. I realized after awhile that I was sort of hopping around, trying to get out of people’s way and let them by. That does not work. You have to pick a line, and stick to it. At the last minute people will shift over just enough to let you by, and if they don’t, you just have to be braced to take a shoulder. It’s pretty funny sometimes. The older ladies with their carts are the scariest, they’ll bowl you right over. Standing in line is another great example. In the mercadonas everybody stands right up behind you, breathing down your neck and waiting for you to make a mistake and get distracted. Then they’ll swoop past you to the checkout! …That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they do stand right up against you and look for excuses to cut. Oh and people get INTENSE in the bakeries! After many trips where I waited patiently for someone to help me, I’ve finally learned to step in front, put up my hand, and say “ME! I am next! Right HERE!” The Catalans are serious about their grocery shopping, and I have no idea why in such a chill culture. Maybe they’re all late for a three hour lunch.

Last but not least, Lisa (who was a college runner, and who makes it into every blog now because she is awesome) asked me if I wanted to run a 10k yesterday. I’ve been running lately, but not that far! As a side note, I finally realized I just don’t have the discipline to make myself exercise consistently or hard enough, so I asked Caleb to be my personal trainer…haha. Slightly dangerous I know, but it’s been really great. He’s encouraging, and I just needed that extra push to know that there’s an expectation that I will get my workout done while he’s on his ride. Anyway, running in public is nerve wracking for me. But I figured I might as well try it, and lo and behold I actually finished. Not only was it the longest distance I’ve ever run (sad I know, but you gotta start somewhere!) but it was our first “international” race, and my first race anywhere/ever. What a great experience!

Volta a Catalunya

Caleb is racing all this week in the Volta Catalunya. It’s a seven day race that takes place all around Girona, goes up into the mountains, and ends in Barcelona. Yesterday I was able to get to Banyoles to watch stage 2! It was so fun being able to go to my first bike race of the season, not to mention the first bike race I’ve ever been to in Europe. Originally I was going to take the bus, but then my new friend Kirstine came and she drove us. We also met up with the Busche’s, who had braved the cold weather on their moto! We had a blast cheering Caleb on, despite the fact that it was freezing and trying to rain on us all day. Just a part of the adventure I guess

I won’t attempt to go into too much detail describing Caleb’s racing at this point, because I don’t think I could do it justice. (You’ll have to check in with Alex Fairly for awesome, detailed updates on Caleb’s cycling!) But what I do know is that he is focusing right now on adjusting to the pro tour level of cycling, and quite an adjustment it is! It’s faster, more dangerous, and doesn’t allow for any mistakes of positioning or wasted energy. Every time I’ve spoken with him during this race, he’s been upbeat and excited about how much he’s learning and improving every day. Unfortunately, in this stage he flatted right before the finish line. But he still felt really good about how the day had gone. Here’s a few pictures from Banyoles.

Kirstine and I waiting in Banyoles, trying to make sense of the race updates coming at us in Catalan. With her french and my spanish, we sort of knew what was happening 😉

 

Saying a quick hi and goodbye to Caleb before his bus leaves!

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It’s Springtime!

So last week Caleb caught a cold (from Belgium, he claims) and then gave it to me. Not a terrible cold, just enough to make training more difficult for him, and to make grocery shopping in the rain a bummer for me. But we took care of each other and pulled through 😉 It rained steady for almost a week! Not my cup of tea, but the last couple of days have been stunningly beautiful and WARM. Even though I’m not a rain fan, this is always what I pictured real spring weather to be. Colorado springs are much different: not much rain, but the occasional snowstorm just to keep you on your toes when all you want to do is wear flip flops and and shorts!

Caleb and I went out on a search for good paella the other night. We were both still trying to get over the sniffles, but were tired of sitting around the apartment and went out. I love walking around the city at night. The cathedrals are lit up, and all the lights are reflected in the river. We found a nice little restaurant that overlooked the river. The paella was pretty good, but we’re still on the lookout for a favorite place. I’m also planning on trying to make it, so that should be interesting. I don’t really like cracking open a whole shrimp with the eyes and everything, so even though it’s authentic I won’t be serving it that way! Here’s Caleb and me enjoying our evening out.

Our new friends Matthew and Lisa Busche had us over for dinner the other night, and we enjoyed some awesome Mexican food! They’ve been living here for a year, and have loads of good advice on how to get around and where to find things. Most notably, they know where the cheddar cheese is hiding. (It’s funny how much you want cheddar when you suddenly can’t have it.) We had a really great time with them. The other big “social event” of the week was yesterday, when I went to a huge barbecue. Caleb had to train, but the Busches were kind enough to let me tag along with them. Steven Cozza, (who Caleb knows from when they were on Garmin together,) and his fiance Jen have an incredible rooftop terrace where they hosted probably the entire cycling community of Girona. It was great to meet a lot of new people, and to put some faces to names. Here’s Lisa, me and the awesome view.

In other news, my Spanish is finally feeling more comfortable. I’m certainly not fluent, but able to converse with people much more comfortably. I’m still looking into classes to try and help it along, and may have finally found something in Girona that will work. Being able to communicate more effectively in Spanish, and meeting more and more “cycling wives” in the area has made me feel so much more comfortable. Caleb is going to be gone this next week for Volta a Catalunya, home for a week, and then gone for three weeks in April. Having met such a welcoming group here has really lessened any anxiety I had been feeling about hanging out alone here. I’m glad for that, especially because it makes Caleb so much more relaxed and able to focus on his job instead of having to worry about me. I want to be able to give him the support that comes from being happy and stable here. Now all I need is an exciting job that lets me travel with Caleb when he goes back to the States, and life would be perfect! That’s a bit of a tall order. But who knows, maybe I’ll find the perfect thing someday. Right now I just want to be content with this beautiful adventure. We miss you all at home, but this is starting to feel like home too…just like it should be!

Racing time!

Last Tuesday Caleb went to his first race since since I arrived. A teammate was sick, so Caleb took his place in Le Samyn in Belgium. He was going to leave for a race that weekend anyway, and I had been dreading this first separation since moving here a bit. I’m not sure what I was so nervous about; maybe it was just the idea of being isolated. But his director called him on Tuesday in the middle of his training ride and said “you’re leaving tonight!” So the dreading was over, and as is often the case, it was definitely the worst part. As soon as he was gone I stopped worrying about it and was fine. I know my way around a little bit, I have lots of things to do to stay busy, and the novelty of living IN SPAIN has in no way worn off yet! It also helps that our apartment feels so safe. Caleb and I had someone break into a condo we were renting in Tucson a few months ago, and when I’m alone I still tend to get a little jumpy. But it would be really hard to break into our new place and that is so comforting!

Caleb and I took a rambling sunset walk through the old town before he left, and explored the old wall. It doesn’t go all the way around the city like it used to a long time ago, but the part that’s left is open for touring around. It works its way up the hill behind the city and gives some spectacular views of Girona on one side and the valley on the other. Pretty romantic at sunset 😉 I won’t bore you with it now, but if you have time look up the history of Girona and this wall, it’s fascinating. So many wars have been fought here. Anyway a couple days later I went back up to the highest tower we had found and did some sketching. I felt rusty, but it was good to practice. Along with my attempt at being artsy I did something else new and fun while on my own: I made friends! Hurrah! Another cyclist’s wife, Lisa, invited me out to coffee and we had a great time. Lisa introduced me to “xocolate” for the first time. It’s basically chocolate pudding in cup (awesome). Then later that weekend, I went to lunch with Lisa and another friend of hers Jen, and on a couple of hikes. They were so welcoming and fun, and it makes such a difference to feel like I know people here.

Here’s some fun random facts about living here before I take off. First: everyday is trash day. This isn’t true of most of the city, but in the old town Caleb and I could not for the longest time figure out what to do with our trash. Every time we went out for that first week we kept our eyes pealed for dumpsters, but there was nothing. Finally we realized that people were piling their trash around built-in, tiny trash cans, pillars, back doors, pretty much anywhere it would get noticed in the evenings, and the trash service comes every night and clears everything away. Pretty exciting, I’m sure you’re pumped to hear about that. Second: siesta. Around 2:00pm everyday, everything shuts down. And I mean EVERYTHING. If you’re out shopping or running errands, you just have to stop and go home at siesta! Accomplishing anything is not allowed. This goes on until about 5:00pm, and then stores reopen until dinnertime, around 8 or 9. (Except for the banks, as I think I mentioned before. They just don’t reopen because…they’re banks. That’s the only explanation we can get from anyone.) It is so random to have to plan your day around a forced break in the middle. It’s also funny to eat dinner so late. If you go out to eat before 8:30 or so, most places will just turn you away. It’s too early to eat, come on!

Blog?

Hello from Spain! Caleb and I live one street over from this picture (which I did not take but is so lovely!) in the old town of Girona. And here I am, blogging about it! Caleb told me I should blog, and then so did Michelle…I’ve always thought blogging was somewhat egotistical unless you were living in the dirt in Africa or something. But chelle said I needed to get over myself and do it, and I’m kind of excited about being able to share some of our experiences so far. (I even came up with a pun for the blog! Micah will be so proud of me.) As long as a have a good enough sense of humor to laugh at myself when I look back on these, I think it should be fun.

I’ve been here for exactly two weeks now, and it has been so interesting. (This will be a long first post!) The first week was a unique combination of stressful and slow. Stressful because 1) we couldn’t get into our apartment for several days longer than we were expecting 2) we were sleeping on a futon together 3) the banks close at 2 every day, what? 4) I naturally could not remember a word of Spanish for many days. But really, how stressful can things be in Spain? It’s not like we were rushing around, trying to desperately get things done in time so we could move. (People do not RUSH in Spain.) We could really only do one thing per day, and then wait for the banks to reopen, and then solve one more issue, and then wait for the banks to reopen, etc. But of course we did make it into our apartment (oh technically I think it’s called a flat, which is way more fun.) And it is awesome. I didn’t realize this was a part of the package when I married him, but Caleb has great taste. He found us a place in the old town of Girona, on a winding little street with ancient walls and a couple cathedrals down the way, but with a newly re-done interior. *sigh* he’s great.

Ever since we moved in and returned our rental car it’s been “figure out Girona” time for me. Caleb went back to training, and instead of blindly following him around (he’s spent a good amount of time here with his teammates in the past) I had to put on my walking shoes, dig out my Spanish (from very far back in my memory) and utilize my fantastic sense of direction! (which is slightly hindered by the mountains not always being in the west.) I’m kidding. But really, it is my best way of not getting lost, because I can’t remember street names the way Caleb can. Instead I just make sure I always know what direction the giant river is and I do fine. I’ve been looking all over town for the different types of food we want, kitchen supplies, shelves for the bathroom, shelves for the closets, hangers, cookie sheets (WHERE are the cookie sheets???) a map for Caleb’s rides, the free Catalan classes we heard of, contact solution, spices…you get the picture. I have been mostly successful, and am slowly discovering tiny little shops all over the old town that have the things I need. This makes everything easier because I don’t have to walk to the mercadonas (bigger grocery stores) as often. It’s a further walk carrying everything back. I’ve been enjoying the hours of walking every day, but it’s not as fun when you’re carrying a bunch of stuff. Of course there’s always the possibility that we’ve missed a mercadona that’s very close to us and are walking far away for no reason, so maybe someday I’ll blog about how exciting the new mercadona is.

Now! More recently I am super proud of myself. Yesterday, I figured out the bus system. I know, lots of people can ride the bus. But I’m telling you the maps were crazy complicated and everything was in Catalan, so this is a win. I went to the mall to look for some things for the “flat” I still hadn’t been able to find, and it was a pretty successful trip. (The girly girl in me was relieved to find that the mall is great, and cheaper than a lot of other places around here!) Today was also a good day. I was just going to go out to a few shops around where we live to pick up some produce, but ended up going out to the main street. I’m so glad I did! They were having some sort of Saturday flower market in the Rambla. I kept walking along the river, and went past a store that I have never seen open before. (Side note: I have yet to figure out the system of when stores open and close. I thought it worked around the siesta, but it seems to be more random than that. Maybe there is no system.) Anyway I went in, and it was quite the store. I can only describe it (lovingly) as a junk store. Things you would never think of as being important until you don’t have, that you usually get at Wal-Mart or just the grocery store. And lo and behold, the main thing Caleb has been wanting since we moved in was on the top shelf! Stack-able plastic drawers! We’ve both looked EVERYWHERE for those, (our apartment doesn’t have any drawers or shelves) and the only ones we could find were 100 euros. What the heck?? Who would pay that? I finally found some cheap ones, and all that remained was to carry them home. I’m sure I looked fantastic lugging huge plastic stack-able drawers half way across the city, but I did it. They are waiting to surprise Caleb as we speak. Never done that in a foreign country before!